Former Million Dead frontman Frank Turner is nothing if not prolific. Hot on the heels of album releases in 2007 (Sleep Is For The Week) and 2008 (the fantastically well received Love, Ire & Song), this year Turner attempts to live up to his burgeoning reputation with the release of his latest LP, Poetry Of The Deed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no great change of tack on display: as a folk singer-songwriter with extensive punk credentials, Turner ushers hardcore elements into the fold time and again, and, to his credit, they mesh easily with a modus operandi that is, more often than not, entirely acoustic.
Add to this the fact that the album, unlike its predecessors, was recorded live with a full band and with a recognised producer in Alex Newport, it’s no great surprise that the end product shares the high production values of the likes of Jack Penate, who, it seems, Turner appears determined to join at the higher reaches of the charts.
But what of the songs themselves? Does the critical praise showered on Love, Ire & Song propel its successor to ever greater heights, or does it serve to set the bar higher than Turner can ever hope to reach again? As ever, the tracks on display suggest a little bit of both.
Poetry Of The Deed begins with a greater emphasis on frenetic punk values before settling into a more settled pop-folk furrow. Opening gambit Live Fast Die Old recalls hardcore days of old in acoustically-wrought memories. It’s as if Mull Historical Society used to be a thrash metal outfit.
Try This At Home and Dan’s Song then prove that old habits die hard, each lasting a very punkish one minute 50-odd seconds. The former sounds like a Celtic-punk Dropkick Murphys-type call to arms; the latter a Billy Bragg-esque ode to drinking in the park. It’s certainly attention grabbing stuff.
The album’s title track is similarly rousing, and, despite a hint of self-righteousness (“Me and my friends are poets of the deed / We’re exactly what this country needs”), ultimately stirs as a result of Turner’s smart turn of phrase and well developed sense of pacing.
Thereafter, however, question marks arise: Isabel, a somewhat plodding ballad, is neither here nor there; Sons Of Liberty’s political commentary feels a little contrived; Richard Divine seems to simply go through the motions compared with the preceding dynamism.
Poetry Of The Deed does at times, however, manage to inspire in the unflustered material that makes up the bulk of its composition. Lead single The Road, for instance, charts an instinctive path through country-folk, complete with sing-along chorus and take-home lines: “I’ve driven across deserts / driven by the irony / That only being shackled to the road / could ever I be free.”
Ultimately though, this album is at its best when it trades on its punk-folk compound; a trick Turner does so well that the LP’s subsequently hushed tracks come across as comparatively pale, the listener’s ear yearning for a vigour that sunk halfway through. Perhaps it’s the weight of expectancy that renders this a flawed if enjoyable effort.